Gesualdo Zucco

Detection and training of olfactory deficits in patients affected by Covid-19

Required budget: 25.000 euro

Olfaction plays a special role in several aspects of daily life, fostering the acquisition of early preferences through learning, modulating the appreciation and aversion to food and, most important here, accounting for disease. Extensive data from the literature, as well as from our own studies, document the presence of olfactory dysfunctions in ageing as well as in various neurodegenerative, psychiatric and infective conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Korsakov’s, Huntington’s, Major Depressive disorder, Schizophrenia, Minimal Hepatic Encephalopathy, HIV infection, Spongiform Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Notably, impairments in the detection, memory and identification of odorants accompany or precede the early stage of such diseases representing one of the first clinical biomarkers of the pathology and predictors of its progression.

Recently, it has emerged that people affected by the virus SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2, known commonly as Covid-19), exhibited, beside upper respiratory and multi-organ diseases, sudden olfactory (hyposmia and anosmia) and taste (hypogeusia and ageusia) disorders. Available reports to assess such deficits, however, focused mainly on ad hoc self-reported questionnaire, lacking objective gauges. Our proposal here aims at evaluating and training sensory and cognitive olfactory dysfunctions in patients affects by Covid-19 by means of standardized tests (i.e, the Sniffin Sticks test kit and the Smell training test). The patients participating in the study will be recruited among the new and old cases complaining for olfactory disturbances.

Study steps: Administration of a Neuropsychological test to evaluate cognitive functions; Assessment of sensory and cognitive olfactory capabilities; Olfactory training; follow-up of all patients and performance’s comparison of trained versus untrained patients.